(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/12/2021) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today joined 25 other Virginia, state and national civil rights and faith organizations in a joint letter demanding accountability, equal justice, and the reimagination of public services from the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) and the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO).
READ THE LETTER:
Supporting the #Fightfor5 campaign, groups are advocating for five policy goals that promote social justice and equity in Virginia communities and demand accountability from those overseeing the FCPD and FCSO, including the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, all state-level law enforcement agencies and state legislators and executives.
The letter also voices strong solidarity with Abrar Omeish, a Muslim woman and Fairfax County elected official who was pepper-sprayed by a Fairfax County police officer after he pulled her over for turning right at a red light. After she was taken into custody, Abrar was forced to remove her hijab (Islamic head scarf) and photographed in violation of federal law.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations today filed lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on behalf of Abrar Omeish. Omeish is leading the #Fightfor5 advocacy campaign.
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Supporters of the letter include: ACLU People Power Fairfax, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), CASA, Centreville Immigration Forum, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Defending Rights and Dissent, Edu-Futuro, Emgage, HEART, IfNotNow DC, ICNA Council for Social Justice, Isuroon, Justice for Muslims Collective, Libyan American Alliance, MALIKAH, MPower Change, Muslim American Society (MAS), National Network for Arab American Communities, NAKASEC Virginia, Partnership to End Gendered Islamophobia, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment, Sanctuary DMV, Stop Police Terror DC, US Council of Muslim Organizations, Virginia Coalition of Latin American Organizations, Virginia Council of Muslim Organizations.
The joint letter is calling for a “transparent investigation into the egregious, discriminatory, and unconstitutional misconduct [Omeish] suffered” and “encourage responsible county leaders to take disciplinary action and enact policy changes on the county and state levels” . . . “both in response to her case and to address persistent and widespread issues of injustice and inequity.”
Click here to read the #Fightfor5 letter.
As written in the letter, the #Fightfor5 campaign seeks the following local and Virginia state law enforcement policy reforms:
- Fight for Facts:
In Fairfax County and the state, we continue to face resistance to transparent and detailed reporting of annual police/sheriff dealings, as well as refusal to release personnel information about officers or to provide case information sorted by officer name, as is available in a majority of states. While more police data is now available online, summary reports are segmented into categories that are unhelpful. No meaningful data is published from the Sheriff’s Office at all. For both, further demographic breakouts may be needed to unmask disparate impact or treatment of other marginalized communities.
- Fight for Fairness:
Current law enforcement practices target policing at minority and lower-income neighborhoods. As a result, most criminal charges are disproportionately assigned to minorities, the underprivileged, and those with disabilities. These well-funded mass profiling efforts have yielded adverse outcomes without proven effectiveness. Practices resembling stop and frisk, community checkpoints, and predictive profiling must cease, and disincentives ought to be in place. Only measured, proven methods that center on human beings ought to continue. We insist on respect for sincerely-held religious beliefs and expect explicit legal prohibition of any requests to remove religious head-coverings that do not respect religious conditions. We also support the limits on cooperation and information-sharing with federal immigration enforcement agencies adopted by the FCPD and the forthcoming Board Trust Policy for other county agencies. We demand similar accountability and limitations on the Sheriff’s Office.
- Fight for Follow Up:
Fairfax County policies must structurally account for asymmetry and inconsistency in a proactive fashion. When civilians are stopped, officers must be required to take a peace pause of three cool down minutes prior to interacting and to verbalize an option to initiate personal recording. When rights are violated in an encounter, we demand that, as a “knock-out rule,” charges in turn be dropped. We insist on preventing qualified immunity defenses against civilians (the new HB 5013) and assert that when qualified immunity is the sole defense invoked in a case, legal fees must not be covered by public monies. We urge that civilian review panels have the ability to investigate allegations, discipline or terminate officers, and nullify unfounded charges. The Sheriff’s actions must also be subject to civilian review. Violations of constitutional rights, including forced removal of religious head-coverings, cannot be tolerated. We also insist on adding specific stipulations to limit the language of broad charges that are widely abused, like obstruction of justice (§ 18.2-460), as well as the number of possible charges in traffic stops.
- Fight for Freedom
We understand that appropriate situations demand suitable expertise, and that communities are unsafe when individuals do not seek help due to lack of trust. We seek to empower families and reapportion and more appropriately triage law enforcement resources to assign on-call social workers, behavioral specialists, and other social service professionals. We insist that militarized policing and use of force policies that lack disincentives or consequences do not support our communities. We also demand a state ban on hiring or retaining law enforcement officers with violent misdemeanor records and call for more selective hiring criteria (§ 15.2-1705).
- Fight for Futures
We seek long-term plans and investments of Fairfax County resources in human development, education, public health, and social welfare initiatives, especially for youth, to address the underlying reasons for which forces are authorized to inflict violence in our communities, in an effort to phase out these situations. In lieu of weapons purchases or additional policing growth, we expect our government to recognize the dignity and potential of every human being and ensure government funding practices reflect this commitment.
In the short-term, #Fightfor5 demands that, within six months, an external audit of all Fairfax County law enforcement practices be initiated by a coalition of civil rights and social service organizations to evaluate dysfunction, recommend proven alternatives, and advise in the selection of the new FCPD chief.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.
CONTACT: CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw, 202-742-6448, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com